Apr 26 2017
When I went shopping for my next laptop, I had three primary criteria:
- Portability. It should be easy to take anywhere. I wanted it to be smaller and lighter than my MacBook Air. Right off the bat, this ruled out all the 15” and larger laptops.
- Versatility. I wanted the ability to use it as a tablet. This ruled out all Apple MacBooks, and limited me to the convertable, two-in-one hybrids.
- Affordability. I wanted a powerful machine for under $1,000 USD. This ruled out the Microsoft Surface Pro as well as other high-end hybrids. They might be nice machines, but they were costly.
Of the remaining options, I focused on the following three:
- Acer Switch Alpha 12
- Lenovo Miix 700
- HP Spectre X2
The HP Spectre X2 was the first to be eliminated, because its screen had a lower resolution (1920×1280) than the other two (2160×1440). I prefered the higher pixel density (216 dpi) of the higher resolution, because I wanted to use the device as an e-reader. I wanted the text to be sharper and more similar to the printed page.
The Lenovo Miix 700 was compelling in having lighter weight and longer battery life, but the Acer Switch Alpha 12 had the advantage of a faster CPU, the Intel Core i5, so it would not become obsolete quite as quickly.
Ultimately, I chose the Acer Switch Alpha 12. I have now used it for several months, and here are my thoughts based on my real-life experience with the device.
- Functionality. As expected, it works well as an e-reader. I especially enjoy reading e-magazines on its bright, sharp screen while reclining on my sofa. It has become one of the little things in life I enjoy and greatly value.
- Performance. The Core i5, the 8 GB RAM, and the 256 GB SSD deliver sufficient speed for even demanding tasks. At the moment, I have multiple browsers (Firefox, Waterfox and Cyberfox) open, each hosting 100+ tabs. The system remains smooth and responsive.
- Silence. Acer’s liquid cooling technology, called Acer LiquidLoop, is innovative and works well. The unit is completely silent — and that makes it an ideal computing device for me, because I prefer to read, write, and think in complete silence. I love the absence of fan noise — it is truly a blessing
- The stylus holder on left side of the keyboard is unnecessary and a design misstep. Mine was ripped off after a couple months, merely from being in contact with rough surfaces in daily usage. I threw it away.
- Many reviewers have noted that the battery life is a weakness. On a full charge, it can last for about 5 hours, whereas the Microsoft Surface Pro can provide one or two hours beyond that.
In the real world, this shortcoming hasn’t affected me much, because I usually total up to several hours of mobile usage before plugging the unit in to a power source, with about 20% to 30% power remaining. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Overall, the Acer Switch Alpha 12 is a tremendous value. There are three models available, and each occupies a unique niche:
This is the least expensive one. I would recommend it only if you are on a restrictive budget — as long as you can accept that, in the long run, you’ll find yourself limited by the slower processor, the lesser amount of memory, and the lower-capacity SSD storage.
The is the sweet spot and the model I purchased for myself. It’s not the fastest one, but it’s certainly fast enough for years to come. The price, at $300 less than the comparable Surface Pro 4, is very reasonable.
This is the high-end unit. I would recommend it to those who need the extra speed and storage — perhaps programmers, video editors, or graphics professionals who need all the performance they can get.